Jasmine Gwang Ju @ the EICC

Cymbals and symbolism

Feature by Missy Lorelei | 19 Aug 2011
  • Jasmine Gwangju @EICC

There are a thousand ways to lose yourself at the Fringe in August, many unhealthy, others morally questionable.

Thus it is refreshing to see an emotionally-charged piece of physical theatre which carries a strong, un-cynical message of world peace, particularly in these troubled times.

Korean company Gwangju Cultural Foundation tell the story of democratisation in Gwangju City in May 1980, in a powerful immersive performance which blends the socio-political with the spiritual.

Using symbolism, the nascent revolution is shown through the lone character, a ghost called Jasmine Gwang Ju who acts as a kind of conduit for the changes happening around him: children are playful spirits, shamen and musicians dance mockingly and he is troubled by these memories of heartache, until cleansed.

Their set design is a rich palette of whites, purples and burnished oranges and the music a spectacular collision of ritual drumming and adapted traditional Jeon-ra music.

The voices of the women’s Ba-ra-ji group are incredible, in particular Seong-Seok Han, who ululates in a soaring, ethereal banshee howl: just spine-chilling. The effect is even more jarring when actual footage of the bloody uprising is projected onto the screens. The cycle becomes complete, from despair to acceptance to joy.

Hypnotic and mesmerising, Jasmine Gwang Ju is a beautiful, mordant but ultimately uplifting piece: a timely memento mori.


Runs are finished.